October 2008

Rights, Wrongs and the Humanities

Writers Francisco Goldman and Ian Buruma headline symposium on October 23-24

By Peter Bendix

Ian Buruma, author of Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo Van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance, will address the symposium on October 24.

The intersection of human rights and the humanities is the focus of an October symposium hosted by the Center for the Humanities at Tufts. Among the speakers are the writers Francisco Goldman and Ian Buruma.

The symposium, “The Humanities and Human Rights,” will be held October 23 and 24 in the Aidekman Arts Center’s Alumnae Lounge on the Medford/Somerville campus. Jonathan Wilson, professor of English and director of the center, says he’s excited to bring “vital, interesting, smart” speakers to campus to deal with many of the varied, complex issues surrounding human rights.

The symposium begins on October 23 at 5:30 p.m. with a keynote speech by Goldman, author of The Art of Political Murder. He will discuss reporting and writing his nonfiction account of a murder of a bishop in Guatemala and the subsequent attempt to cover it up. The book “transcends local politics and takes on the global issue of human rights,” says Wilson.

On Friday, October 24, from 10 a.m. to noon, a panel discussion will feature four participants, including a Tufts alumna. Anna Di Lellio, author of The Case for Kosova (Anthem Press, 2006) and a visiting professor in international relations at the New School University in New York, will speak about how literary projects play into nationalist notions—how combatants use literature to further their goals. Anthropologist Heidi Larson of Clark University will address rumors—why people believe what they believe, with specific reference to Africa. She will discuss such issues as false beliefs about AIDS and vaccines.

Also speaking is Annette Kern-Stähler, a professor of English literary and cultural studies at the University of Duisberg–Essen in Germany. She will talk about how documentaries of war crimes have affected the establishment of international humanitarian law. And Ana Maria Dopico, J85, an associate professor of Spanish and comparative literature at New York University, will speak on “Urgent Practices: The Humanities, Political Violence and the State in Latin America.”

The symposium concludes with a lecture by Buruma from 1 to 3 p.m. on Friday. The Anglo-Dutch writer is a “tremendously important” figure in the field of human rights, Wilson says. Buruma’s book, Murder in Amsterdam: The Death of Theo Van Gogh and the Limits of Tolerance, chronicles the complexities of the response to growing Muslim communities in Europe. Buruma’s talk, “Enlightenment Values: the Muslim Debate in Europe,” will address the challenges Europe currently faces as religious diversity conflicts with civil liberties.

The symposium is part of the inaugural year of events sponsored by the Center for the Humanities, which opened in January. “I very much want the center to be an interdisciplinary, intellectual hub for exchange of ideas on campus,” Wilson says.

For further information go to the center’s website.

Peter Bendix, A08, is an editorial assistant in the Office of Publications. He can be reached at peter.bendix@tufts.edu.

Article Tools

emailE-mail printPrint